IRL Viewship on the Rise; Critical Time for IRL Sponsorship Efforts

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Los Angeles, California - According to Nielsen Media Research, Versus’ coverage of the IZOD IndyCar Series’ Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 18 was the network’s highest-rated and most-watched race. The race averaged 490,000 viewers during the 3-6 p.m. (EST) time slot and peaked with 525,000 viewers.

The first three races of the 2010 season, as compared to the same number of events in 2009, have grown 67% in household ratings and 30% in average viewers. Substantial growth is especially strong in all key male demographics with the coveted 18-34 age bracket up a whopping 104%.

This momentum is welcome news to the series which has seen sponsorship suffer during the recession with series officials hoping to leverage the increase in viewers into sponsorship dollars. The timing could not be better as the month of May features two nationally televised oval races, including the esteemed Indianapolis 500. With 40 entries for the second consecutive year, the 94th Indianapolis 500 field is diverse and competitive. Drivers range in age (from 19 to 47), experience (6 rookies and a 10-time Indy 500 competitor), and results (four former winners, including one three time winner).

For some drivers, the size of the television audience--and what IRL officials and team owners can transact with those ratings--may literally be the difference between stop and go.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, who won last weekend’s race and who placed second at the series opener in Sao Paulo, Brazil is only signed with Andretti Autosport through the race at Texas Motor Speedway which takes place on June 5. Despite driving the series sponsor car, delivering results, and proving himself to be marketable, Hunter-Reay is still not signed for a full year, attesting to just how tight funding remains and what the series and fans have to lose if increased viewership cannot be converted into sponsorship revenue.

Robyn Lynne Schechter

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